The outpatients area at the National Referral Hospital in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Photo: RNZ/Pacific Koroi Hawkins
Health authorities in Solomon Islands have reported three more Covid-19 deaths and 303 new cases of the virus.
Minister of Health Culwick Togamana announced the figures from the last 24 hours (up to midday Monday) this evening which brings totals to 12 deaths and 1486 cases since the start of the outbreak just under a fortnight ago.
The majority of cases were still coming from the capital, Honiara, and Malaita Province, but suspected cases were starting to crop up in other parts of the country, Dr Togamana said.
"With this, our current health strategy focuses on reducing the burden of disease. Limiting the number of hospitalisations and deaths, early identification of serious cases and provision of appropriate treatment to those who required (sic) it," he said.
While the statistics were stark, the public could take some comfort from data showing there had been an 86 percent recovery rate during the current outbreak.
"Nevertheless, this should not sway us from being vigilant and let our guards down with Covid-19 safe measures."
Opposition critical of govt's Covid-19 response
The leader of the parliamentary opposition in Solomon Islands, Matthew Wale, has voiced serious misgivings in the government's Covid-19 response.
In a statement today, Wale said nurses and doctors at the country's main National Referral Hospital (NRH) had informed him that it was on the brink of collapse due to staff and patients testing positive for Covid-19.
"The worrying situation is NRH will not be able to treat other illnesses and NRH will become a Covid facility. Many very sick people are now afraid to seek treatment at NRH in fear of contracting Covid and there is no other alternative. Many cannot afford private clinics as well. How long this will go for is a matter of urgency," Wale said.
In his announcement today, Dr Togamana spoke of the spread of Covid-19 infections to other wards in the hospital but said they believed only 16 percent of new infections in the current outbreak were occurring at the hospital, the rest, including for staff working in the hospital, were occurring in the community.
Solomons media call for more govt accountability
The Solomon Islands Media Association is calling on the Solomon Islands government to stop treating the media like its bulletin board.
Association president Georgina Kekea said it was next to impossible to get any questions about the Covid-19 outbreak and response answered by the government or senior public officials.
The government's restrictions on people's movement and access to information were making it very difficult for media organisations to report independently on the outbreak, Kekea said.
"Especially when it comes to getting exemptions from the police and we reckon that this must be because of the lack of understanding of the role of the media and what it plays in society which is why we continue to experience this sort of setback when we want to do our job."
The government was making public announcements and hosting its own radio shows without taking any questions from the media, Kekea said.